The tramp to Awatere hut is the ideal one to do when you haven’t been out in the hills for a few months, and want to get back into it. It doesn’t take more than an hour’s walking to get to, yet gives the feeling of being away from it all. It also has magnificent views, open tops, river and bush. You seldom find all these different landscapes in a short tramp, which makes this the one where you get maximum bang and enjoyment for your buck. I’ve done it numerous times, and never get bored!
You’ll need to have at least a modicum of fitness – if you haven’t been off the couch for a few months, perhaps it’s better to walk around the block several times a week for two weeks before the time in order to enjoy it, as there is one 200m climb involved.
To get to the start, from SH50 turn west into Makaretu road, and then a few km’s further, left into Mill road. Mill road eventually becomes a gravel road – continue along until you encounter a fairly steep uphill – near the top of this, turn left into Kashmir Road. Follow this for 17km to the car park at the road end. Note – you will need a 4wd vehicle – there are some serious uphills on this road, with some deep ruts. I’ve seen and heard of people struggling in a front-wheel drive vehicle, having to get out and push, or park up and walk the last 5km!
At the road-end is a car park, a toilet, and an information panel. The track to Awatere hut starts at the top of the car park, signposted on the left. The track is initially quite wide, grassy, and easy, but soon narrows into a single-file walk. You’ll then arrive at a large orange marker – avoid the temptation to head straight up the hillside in the direction it’s pointing! Follow the track another 30m or so, after which it turns sharp right at a steel marker pole, steeply uphill. After climbing about 40m up this track one suddenly crests the ridge, and magnificent views open up all around – take the time to savour these before carrying on. You’ll see the well-defined track now heading up the ridge before you in a southerly direction. It’s easy to follow, is marked by steel poles, and undulates gently up and down for about 1km before dropping down steeply towards the Makaretu River North Branch. Again, great views to be had all round, and if you look to the main Ngamoko Range on your right, you might see Longview hut perched near the top, if not obscured by cloud or mist. To the left, expansive views to the east over the Ruataniwha and Takapau plains stretch away into the distance. The two peaks to the south (colloquially known as the Baldies) are also conspicuous because of their barren treeless appearance.
The track now drops steeply for 200m into the Makaretu River. As you get nearer to the river, the vegetation becomes thicker and lusher, and soon the track enters beech forest. You’ll get to a small tributary stream – cross this, and continue on. About 100m past the stream the track suddenly emerges onto the wide stone and boulder river bed, with not much water to be seen. It gives a very good indication of how large the river can become during sustained heavy rain. In good weather, it’s seldom wider than 2 metres, and can generally be crossed without getting wet feet. Cross over to the opposite bank, and walk downstream for about 80 metres – Awatere hut is on the true right side, and is difficult to miss, being a bright orange colour. It was built in 1960 as a deer culler’s hut, and shows its age. It has heaps of character though, and makes a great lunch stop before tackling the return journey. The facilities are spartan – bunk space for three persons at most, a bench and table, and open fireplace. There is a toilet off to the left of the hut, but no water tank – the river is not far away.
There’s an interesting side trip, if you have the time – leave your back packs at Awatere. About 15 minutes downstream on the true left bank, two large fallen trees jut out onto the river bed. Behind the second one is a step up the bank, behind which is a semi-derelict hunters hut, Black Stag. It’s worth a visit, if only to wonder at the basic shelter it provided for many generations of hunters before falling into disrepair. It is still occasionally used, but only by the very hardy!
Back at Awatere, the return route to the car is back along the way you came. And now the reason for recommending at least some fitness becomes evident – it’s a 200m slog back up to the ridge! You should get back to the car park within 1.25 – 1.5 hours. And like every satisfying tramp, a well-deserved flat white or latte is the cherry on the cake…
- Be prepared! Take clothing and provisions for all weather possibilities – the weather can change in a matter of an hour from beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures, to snow and sub-zero temperatures. For this walk, if the wind is blowing strongly, consider coming back another day. I’ve done it a couple of times where the wind on the ridge was so strong that I could not stand, let alone walk, without being physically blown off my feet.
- Check the weather forecast – don’t do this tramp just after heavy rain, or if heavy rain is forecast, as rivers quickly rise to dangerous levels. If you do get caught out, stay put and wait until the river drops to a safe level.
- Reasonable fitness recommended – 2.5 hours total walking required (from the car park return), with an altitude gain of 200m on the return leg.
- Suitable for children from 7 years and over.
- Tell someone where you’re going, and what time to expect you back. Consider taking a locator beacon!
- Fill in the hut visitor’s book – it could save your life.
- Take a map – NZ Topographical map BL36 Norsewood refers, which can be purchased from Sportsworld or Dave Hern in Waipukurau.
- There is a small charge for staying overnight at this hut – tickets available from the I-site in Waipukurau, or the General Store in Ongaonga.
- Take some old newspapers to leave in the hut for starting fires in the hut’s fireplace.